By John Ikani
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said the Federal Government would not take any action to block or anticipate the outcomes of the various panels set up by state governments to investigate last year’s #EndSARS protests.
Rather, Buhari said his Government would wait to see the steps the Governors would take before considering any action on the outcomes of the inquiries.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed this in a statement, after President Buhari received Blinken at the State House, Abuja.
Up till last month during the one year commemoration of the #EndSARS protest, the Federal Government had insistently denied that unarmed protesters were killed at the tollgate on October 20, 2020, with the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, describing the incident as a “massacre without bodies.”
But speaking yesterday, the President said: “So many state governments are involved, and have given different terms of reference to the probe panels. We at the Federal have to wait for the steps taken by the states, and we have to allow the system to work. We can’t impose ideas on them. Federal Government has to wait for the reaction of the states.”
The United States Government, which has since shown interest in the #EndSARS matter, said it would like to see that both the federal and the Lagos State governments ensured that the report of the panel received due accountability and attention.
On the recent removal of Nigeria from the watchlist of countries violating religious freedom, which Blinken said was “based on facts,” the President expressed the country’s appreciation, noting that there was freedom of worship in Nigeria, and no one is discriminated against based on his or her faith.
The President equally appreciated the United States of America for allowing Nigeria to procure military hardware to fight terrorism in the country, and for the training given to the Nigerian military.
“It’s helping us to stabilize the situation in the Northeast, and we’ve made a lot of progress since 2015. We are doing a lot on security, and the people involved appreciate our efforts,” he said.
Nigeria and her neighbours, the President noted, have been living with the impact of climate change for a while, which has seen Lake Chad shrink drastically from its original size, and affected the livelihood of about 30 million people in the Lake Chad Basin countries.
“That is why the youths defy the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean to attempt emigrating to Europe. Inter-basin water transfer is needed to keep the youths at home, and they can resume their lives of farming, fishing, and animal husbandry,” he explained.
In his remarks, Blinken, who had held a virtual meeting with the Nigerian President earlier in the year said jocularly that it was now good to see him “mask to mask, hoping that we will soon see face to face.”
He appreciated the contributions of Buhari to the protection of the climate, particularly his presence and contributions at the recent COP26 climate conference held in Glasgow, Scotland.
Blinken said America and Nigeria have diverse challenges, but a common denominator is security, and hoped for better partnerships, “so that the bad guys won’t get the good guys.”
He also described the report of the EndSARS probe panel as “democracy in action,” stressing that America equally had its own police brutality, and hoping that necessary reforms would be made.